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Saturday, May 22, 2010

In the age of reason

We defend peoples right to say something, it doesn't mean that you have to agree with it or even respect it. Culture and religion is much too important a matter to be disposed of in ritual routine or lost in an inconclusive debate. This post is dedicated to the Indianhomemaker conclusion on the free speech demand : Whenever we think we are stopping someone from hurting our sentiments by curtailing their freedom of expression (right or wrong), we also empower someone (e.g. the government, extremists, or even religious leaders) to shut our own mouths.

1- Olivier Roy is professor at the EHESS and I was quite impressed by his insight on the religious issues in this article . It emphasize that everyone is faced with the need to invent, define, and objectify what religion means to them. Olivier points out some interesting facts on the dependence of religion on the culture.

Today's religious revival is first and foremost marked by the uncoupling of culture and religion, whatever the religion may be. This explains the affinities between American Protestant fundamentalism and Islamic Salafism: both reject culture, philosophy, and even theology in favour of a scriptural reading of the sacred texts and an immediate understanding of truth through individual faith, to the detriment of educational and religious institutions.

In the countries of origin, religion is always embodied in a culture, and it is difficult, for the believer, to distinguish between what belongs to the cultural tradition – and to some extent to social conventions – and what belongs to dogma. A distinction between religion as a corpus of beliefs – as theology – and culture is not usually made by the man in the street, that is, by ordinary believers. But immigration has suddenly created a divide between religion and society, between religion and culture, to the extent that religious belief is lost sight of.

The first significant aspect of this phenomenon of people moving from one country to another, therefore, is the uncoupling of religion and culture, and the need to define a religion with criteria that are purely religious, and totally internal to the religious domain.

The real question is not an intellectual or a theoretical question about Islam; the real issue here is about the tangible practices of Muslims. What forms and religious beliefs are in circulation among young Muslims today? The forms of religiosity witnessed in Islam today are transversal, they are more or less the same as the ones found in the most popular Western denominations: Catholicism, Protestantism, even Judaism. In our contemporary world we are now witnessing the uncoupling of religion and culture, in other words, contemporary believers put far more stress on faith, on spiritual experience, on individual and personal rediscovery of religion, than on legacy, culture, transmission, authority, and theology.

Religion is easy to define: the corpus, the revealed texts, the interpretations, the theological debates, the dogmas, and so on. As for religiosity, it is the manner in which the believer lives his relationship to religion. And, today, religiosity, everywhere, is far more important than religion.

For example, in the United States, 80 per cent of Americans say they are believers and practicing churchgoers. At the same time, preachers, be they Protestants, Catholics, or Muslims, all say the same: "We live in an atheistic, materialistic, and pornographic society...", a society where 80 per cent of the people say that they are believers. Thus, either there is a contradiction, or they are right. And in my opinion they are right. In fact, societies are no longer religious, even if believers represent a majority in society. Societies are built on other forms of cultural representation, of modes of consumption, of norms, of values, of economy, of anything we care to think of. There is no religious evidence any longer, even in societies with religious majorities.

2- Let's Keep God out of Ethics have very good reason to support their view on morality:

There are two reasons behind dismissing religion in general and theology in particular from ethics: 1) there is no reason to think religion, god, holy texts are necessary for morality (indeed, I think they are often retarding of ethical deliberation) and, 2) religion only clouds already diluted waters.

Further Christopher Hitchens give us a challenge: Name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever.

3- The Pope, the Prophet, and the religious support for evil by Johann Hari: It debates on this enforced 'respect' that has now extended from ideas to institutions.

Only you, the religious, demand to be protected from debate or scrutiny that might discomfort you. The fact you believe an invisible supernatural being approves of – or even commands – your behaviour doesn't mean it deserves more respect, or sensitive handling. It means it deserves less. If you base your behaviour on such a preposterous fantasy, you should expect to be checked by criticism and mockery. You need it.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention Yayaver!

    I agree with 'Let's Keep God out of Ethics'. For one, maybe my god is my rational thinking, and another person's god disagrees with mine :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Indianhomemaker, thanks for coming here. In my view, religious people have closed the door on any possibility that they have a reason for what they do. They ignore reason and makea statement call reason a simple linguistic device aimed at maintaining distance and reinforcing existing boundaries. These dogmas allows them to continue wanting whatever they do without having to take note of the other person’s perspective. So, religions are most irrelavant carrier of wrong traditions without even being debated publically.

    ReplyDelete

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